Johanna Konta and Garbine Muguruza have been forced to play the latest-starting match in Australian Open history after a number of marathon matches and a bizarre bird poo fiasco caused scheduling chaos.
Muguruza claimed a 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 win over Konta to reach the third round on Thursday night, although it was actually Friday morning.
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With a log-jam in scheduling caused by two men’s five-setters earlier on Thursday, 18th seed Muguruza and Briton Konta were kept from playing their first point until 12:30am (AEDT) on Friday in front of a smattering of hardy fans at Margaret Court Arena.
The start was more than half an hour later than Daria Gavrilova and Elise Mertens’s second-round match at last year’s tournament, which began a minute before midnight.
However it might have started a lot earlier had it not been for some seagull droppings.
After the match Konta revealed that officials were planning on moving the match from Margaret Court Arena out to Court 3.
However when they got there the court was covered in bird poo and there wasn’t enough staff on hand to clean it up.
“It’s not ideal for anyone to do any physical activity when it’s bedtime, but it is what it is and both of us were in the same boat,” Konta said.
“Once [Alexander] Zverev and [Jérémy] Chardy’s match went to a fifth set, we were actually going to go out to Court 3 to start, but there was seagull poo everywhere and they had to clean the court. That would have taken 10 to 15 minutes and we were in the same boat anyway.
“Ideally, both of us would have wanted to play earlier, but we don’t make the schedule and we both dealt with the same challenge.”
At the end of a high-quality duel, former Wimbledon and French Open champion Muguruza pounced on Konta’s serve at 6-5 in the deciding set, grabbing a match point with a backhand winner before forcing a forehand error to seal the win.
“I mean, I seriously can’t believe there are people watching us at 3:15. Like who cares?,” Muguruza said on court.`
“Very tough (match), I think Johanna was also playing very good.
“We play for you guys otherwise why are we here, for what?” Muguruza told the few remaining fans in the stands.
While the two-hour 42-minute match did not wrap up until 3:12am, it was still well off the record for the latest finish.
Lleyton Hewitt’s third-round win over Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis at the 2008 tournament lasted until 4:34am.
Muguruza will play Swiss Timea Bacsinszky for a place in the fourth round.